Rayos survive Gallos fightback, return to top spot

Mauro Quiroga leaps into the arms of Rodrigo Noya (right) after scoring Necaxa's first goal against Querétaro in their Matchday 11 fixture. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Mauro Quiroga leaps into the arms of Rodrigo Noya (right) after scoring Necaxa's first goal against Querétaro in their Matchday 11 fixture. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Visiting Necaxa defeated the Gallos Blancos to move back into the top spot pending the outcome of the remaining Matchday 11 games.

Necaxa scored two quick goals midway through the second half then held on for a white-knuckle 2-1 win at Querétaro. The win momentarily moved the Rayos to the top of the table, but the nervous defensive performance down the stretch is becoming a Necaxa specialty.

In Monterrey, visiting Puebla posed the perfect trap game for the Tigres and the Camoteros stunned the hosts with a 1-0 upset victory. The loss ended the Tigres league-high 7-game unbeaten streak and sends Tuca Ferretti’s team into the Clásico Regio on a bad note.

Later Tuesday, Pachuca outscored the Chivas in Guadalajara while León and Atlas played to a 1-1 draw.

Gallos Blancos 1, Rayos 2

In Querétaro, coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich opted to rest a few of his regulars due to this week’s heavy schedule and the decision backfired.

Despite dominating possession, the Gallos Blancos failed to create clear scoring chances. Necaxa defender Rodrigo Noya twice stopped speedster Fabián Castillo in 1-on-1 dribbles, while on two other occasions striker Ayron del Valle lacked the discipline to stay on side. The first time, a goal was disallowed, and the second time, he clanged his shot off the post. But it was for naught.

Rayos beat Gallos
Ayron del Valle of Queretaro adjusts his shin guards after missing a scoring opportunity in his team’s loss to Necaxa. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

In minute 63, Necaxa pressed forward down the right flank via Juan Delgado who had time to pick out Mauro Quiroga who made a great move to lose his marker before heading home from close range. Four minutes later, the Rayos had the ball in the net again. This time Noya rose above Jair Pereira to make contact with a Jesús Angulo corner kick. The ball bounded off the near post and trickled into the net.

Shortly thereafter, Necaxa coach Memo Vázquez ordered a prevent defense and the poor execution gave Rayos fans heart palpitations. The Necaxa midfield dropped back so deep they were right on top of the back four and instead of shutting off passing lanes, there was only confusion. The Rayos defense appeared unsure if they were playing zone or man-marking and the result was a lot of ball-watching. To make it more nerve-wracking, when the defense did gain possession, the passing was shoddy and the two lines never regained shape.

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Querétaro spent most of the final 20 minutes in Necaxa’s defensive third, but goalie Hugo González was up to the task, finishing the game with 6 saves. By this time, Vucetich had inserted starting striker Ake Loba and playmaker Cifford Aboagye and they took advantage of the space the Rayos were conceding.

In minute 72, the Gallos Blancos culminated a lengthy possession with a highlight-reel goal. Jimmy Gómez created space wide right then fired a low pass to del Valle deep in the box. Del Valle one-timed a back pass to Loba who was all alone at the penalty spot and he whacked the ball into the net to cut the lead in half.

Querétaro continued to enjoy possession deep (assisted by Necaxa’s poor ball control and errant outlet passes) but could not find a way to beat González who made a nifty save of a Marcel Ruiz shot in minute 77. Noya also made his presence felt, twice blocking shots from the edge of the box.

The Rayos are now 5-1-1 in their past 7 games, picking up 16 of their 20 points since starting the season 1-1-2. Querétaro remains on 18 points, falling to 2-1-2 at home.

Tigres 0, Puebla 1

Despite starting a first-choice line-up, the Tigres appeared to sleepwalk through their match against lowly Puebla. The home team dominated possession (77%) and outshot the visitors 18 to 9, but only managed 3 shots on goal.

Rayos beat Gallos
Andre-Pierre Gignac struggles to comprehend how his team lost to Puebla despite dominating on the stat sheet. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

It certainly appeared that the Tigres were looking ahead to their weekend match against Monterrey, no doubt confident that they could defeat the Camoteros without full concentration. That was not the case.

Puebla striker Lucas Cavallini was left unmarked on a corner kick and he knocked home the only goal of the match in minute 83 to end the Tigres 7-game unbeaten streak as the defending champs head into the Clásico Regio. The setback also knocked the Tigres out of playoff position and into 9th place. The win allowed Puebla to climb over Toluca into 17th place.

Late games

León 1, Atlas 1

Goalkeeper Camilo Vargas made six saves to preserve a tie for the visiting Zorros and defender Ismael Govea ended Atlas scoreless streak at 197 minutes with a blast from outside the box after a León turnover. Esmeraldas fullback Yairo Moreno equalized two minutes after halftime, stealing an Atlas outlet pass then dribbling to the top of the box and firing a low shot from 20 meters that just slid under Vargas’s outstretched left arm.

Guadalajara 2, Pachuca 4

An error-prone Chivas team gifted three goals to visiting Pachuca and will head into Saturday’s Super Clásico on a two-game losing streak. Guadalajara took a 2-1 lead in minute 55, then fell apart, allowing the tying goal in minute 70 before the Tuzos took advantage of bonehead plays by the Chivas to add two goals.